There are numerous games that fail at the most diverse things, yet there aren’t as many failing at their own genre. The Evil Within seems to belong to this restricted group, where games seem to lose their initial essence in the wonders of content production. Labeled as survival-horror, The Evil Within should be delivering an enthusiastic next-gen experience capable of revolutionizing the genre. However, the recently launched trailer at PAX East indicates that more than failing at horror, this game doesn’t seem to scare anyone at all.
One of the most incoherent features in The Evil Within is the fact that the main character, Sebastian Castellano, does not fear death. The protagonist goes through most of the story wondering if he’s dreaming or if he’s actually part of a living hell. Sebastian is normally detached of emotions and his facial expression is generally hollow and indifferent. Even when the most terrifying enemies approach, he doesn’t seem to have any danger perception. He is not concerned for his mortality, therefore how or why should players be worried about anything at all? The empathy is simply not there.
Surviving is the core feature of this genre but in The Evil Within the treat level is rather tragic. Sebastian is able to defeat all kind of enemies with just his weaponry (guns, rifles, crossbows) and the worst part is that it only takes a few shoots to take down the supposedly horrifying creatures. How can there be any type of fear if dying is not a problem at all? Horror and safety just don’t go along and in this case, things are too simple and easy.
Old scaring tricks used to work marvelously back then but with time and experience players inevitably become tolerant to these same tricks. This happens because the human brain develops involuntary defense mechanisms that won’t allow the same techniques to trigger a similar amount of amusement and fear that it used to. Besides, the surprise element is completely gone. Delivering the same horror features over and over in different contexts does not generate the intended horror sensations. In fact, it can generate opposite feelings such as fun and boredom.
In The Evil Within, the supposed scaring techniques are used and abused to exhaustion. The most common one is the out of nowhere monster spawning. It’s surely frightening at the first times, however after a while you’ll always have in mind that wild abominations can appear behind you, so whether they appear or not, it won’t surprise you anymore. Besides, in this game players can simply run away and close a door behind and they’ll be safe. Now, a horror game that allows this kind of maneuver can’t expect to scare anyone.
The last reason why this game can’t scare players lays on the aesthetics. The general environment visuals are quite gorgeous but when it comes to close range, more specifically characters and monsters, the panorama is very different. Monsters, in general, lack detail and quality, thus realism. The effects are not astonishing as well, which makes the whole in-doors environment a bit rough and hardly convincing.